July 27 2017, updated 1:10pm

READER REPORT:

Starting over: Transforming an Auckland bach into a family home

JANE CALLAGHAN
Last updated 12:09 19/05/2017
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Jane Callaghan started over in Auckland at 52 after the Christchurch quakes and the end of her marriage.

JANE CALLAGHAN
The family co-purchased this bach and painted it inside and out.
JANE CALLAGHAN
They put the pain of the past behind them and worked hard to create a monochromatic space that they love.
JANE CALLAGHAN
The bach is just up the road from Stanmore Bay where Jane spent many happy days as child.
JANE CALLAGHAN
Their Stanmore Bay home has a lush, tropical garden.

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Struggling with the earthquakes in Christchurch with an 8-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old son who is autistic was difficult. 

Dealing with a husband who refused to move back to Auckland after 13 years in Christchurch because of property prices was impossible. 

So I moved back to Auckland. My husband was meant to sell the house and move. Instead, the house was sold and he stayed in Christchurch.

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The children and I had to start afresh. I rented an old salmon-pink bach from a friend in Orewa that my son refused to live in as he would not live in a pink house. 

I got some paint from a neighbour who was a painter and once we had painted it - and the movers arrived with his toys - I had one happy son.

Apart from new beds, I bought most of the furniture off Trade Me and renovated it, and soon we had home sweet home. It's amazing how a little imagination, Kmart, Farmers, Trade Me and paint can really transform a house.

The kids started at a wonderful school and I got a job as a teacher's aide at the same school. 

Money was tight - my half of the settlement wouldn't buy me much of anything in Auckland, so I was out of the property market. I was so fortunate my sister and brother-in-law had several rentals in West Auckland.

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They sold one and together we purchased an adorable two-bedroom bach a mere 100 metres from the beach in Stanmore Bay - a beach I grew up on, as my parents had a bach there for 50 years. It held many happy memories for me, and I wanted the children to make similar memories.

Starting again at 52 was not my idea of fun, but the kids and I managed to do the old bach up nicely. We extended another bedroom and made the lounge bigger and settled into a new life. 

Unfortunately, my son had trouble adjusting away from his dad and was acting out at school and having frequent meltdowns.

I was also struggling financially, as teacher's aides get paid a pittance and 12 weeks of the year were school holidays, which meant no income. For those reasons, I decided to leave a job I loved and go on to a carer's benefit. 

It was something I never thought I would do and my pride took a hammering, but my son's needs were greater than my own.

I regret nothing, as now, four years later, the children are settled, we have a new life and time has healed our wounds.

The bank balance is still unwell and life is a struggle, but we live a lot simpler than we did. 

I have written a book called Embracing autism - A Mother And Son Journey; it will be published on May 25. 

Sady, I'm no JK Rowling, and it won't make me millions, but it is something I would never have done had my life not been turned upside down. 

I feel we have all achieved something in spite of the obstacles and have grown tremendously in so many ways.

I look at our life now and feel we have weathered the storm, and there is sun on the horizon.

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